Thursday, April 19, 2012
I recently saw Lenny Kravitz in Hunger Games and he did a good job. I think he is a natural actor and just great to look at.
This past November, Lenny Kravitz was awarded one of France’s highest accolades when he was made an officer of the Order of Arts and Letters, an honor he received because, according to French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand, he had freed himself “from the barriers between black and white sound.” Indeed, Kravitz has a long history with the French, who embraced the retro ’60s vibe of his 1989 debut album, Let Love Rule, at a time when most of America didn’t know what to make of it. In fact, Kravitz even lives in Paris for several months a year.
Kravitz accepted this mark of distinction just a few months after releasing his ninth album, the expansive Black and White America (Atlantic/Roadrunner), which he recorded at his beach-front studio in the Bahamas (and which, tellingly, has risen higher on the charts in France than in the U.S.). With its angular guitar riffs and smooth vocals, Black and White America revisits the vintage rock-funk fusion of Kravitz’s early days. The album also draws heavily on other aspects of Kravitz’s past, including his upbringing as the child of actress Roxie Roker and TV producer Sy Kravitz, and growing up biracial as he traversed a variety of different (and disparate) spheres.
While Kravitz, who turns 48 later this spring, says he has spent a lot of time “laying low” recently, he has been anything but idle. His design firm, Kravitz Design, a boutique business he started in 2003, counts Philippe Starck and a handful of high-end hotels amongst its clients. In the four years since his last album, Kravitz has also delved into acting, offering up a brief but soulful performance as a male nurse in Lee Daniels’s Academy Award–winning drama Precious (2009). This month, he follows that up with a role in Gary Ross’s highly anticipated, post-apocalyptic thriller The Hunger Games, based on the wildly successful young-adult book series by Suzanne Collins that tracks the participants in a surrealistic adolescent death-match game show. In the film, Kravitz plays Cinna, a flamboyant stylist who dresses one of the movie’s young fighter protagonists, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence), in exuberant, flaming ensembles (one bejeweled gown is literally on fire). It may seem like an unexpected turn for an alpha-male sex-symbol guitar hero, but then again, if anyone has mastered flouting expectations, it’s Kravitz. He recently spoke with R&B singer, producer, and longtime friend Raphael Saadiq.
RAPHAEL SAADIQ: So how did you wind up in Hunger Games?
LENNY KRAVITZ: Gary [Ross] saw Precious and said that he liked the character of Nurse John, so he thought I’d be right for the role in Hunger Games since Cinna is somebody who is looking out for somebody and is a support figure, too. So he called me down here in the Bahamas— I was actually making the album at the time. He said, “Hi, I’m making this movie called The Hunger Games. I think you’d be great. If you want it, you’ve got the part.” No audition. I was really flattered, but I had not read the book. So I downloaded it. I remember I started it late one night and I needed to go to bed—I was tired and had been recording all day and night—but I couldn’t stop reading because I was captured by the story. So I finished the book and called him back and said, “I’d love to do it.” You know, the film definitely represents these times—from government on down to reality television. It’s interesting that we’re living in these times. Really, when you go back to being in junior high school and reading George Orwell’s 1984, you’re, like, “Man, here were are . . .” Our characters have changed, our sensibilities. We’re definitely morphing into something different.
SAADIQ: Do you think anything like The Hunger Games could ever actually happen?
KRAVITZ: You know what’s funny? A lot of reality television started in Europe—things like Big Brother, where you had random people living in a house together and all this stuff started happening. And then you had all the gladiator stuff and the competitions. I remember saying, “One day we’re going to watch people fight to the death, like Roman times. Instead of being in a coliseum, we’re going to watch it on TV .” It sounds like a really far-fetched and politically incorrect statement at this point, but who knows how twisted we’re going to get? Because our appetite grows, our thirst for excitement . . . So who knows in the next 50 years where we’re gonna go? Hopefully we’ll go somewhere smarter and more beautiful and more peaceful, but that’s not where we’re headed at the moment. Things that would shock us years ago are like nothing now.
SAADIQ: When I saw you pop up in Precious, I was like, “That’s cool because Lenny’s still Lenny.” How do you deal with that? Do you pick films in which you can remain Lenny but sometimes bust outside of your own character a little bit, too?